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How to Run a Successful Board

Serving on a board has become increasingly challenging, with increased regulatory scrutiny and much greater focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion issues. Sir John Tusa is a British arts administrator and was the managing director of the BBC World Service and the Barbican Arts Centre. He is the author ofOn Board: The Insider’s Guide to Surviving Life in the Boardroom.

In his book, he examines seven case studies of events, drama and crises in major cultural institutions, including the National Portrait Gallery, American Public Radio, English National Opera, British Museum, Wigmore Hall, University of the Arts London, and Clore Leadership.

BRINK began by asking whether there is any one particular magic ingredient that makes boards work well.

TUSA: Unfortunately not. Governance is far too complex to be reduced to magic potions. A board that works well will have a clear sense of the organization’s purpose, what its values are and why it endorses them. Without this, nothing much works.

但成功的董事会也将由其主席和行政长官固定。这种关系 - 治理与管理 - 至关重要,必须基于它们之间的绝对信任,开放性和透明度。在主席/首席执行官的核心关系中,有一种基本的悖论,表达了它的工作原理:伙伴关系,但分离。一名非常高级椅子向我解释了这意味着实践:“我们绝对作为合作伙伴,直到我要解雇你的那一天。”188比分直播吧足球比分

Don’t Confuse Supervision of Strategy With Interference in Management


TUSA: Too many boards appoint a chair or CEO without really establishing that they are personally and professionally compatible. I witnessed three occasions where the chair and CEO did not trust one another and even disliked one another. Many boards confuse the supervision of strategy, which is their purpose and function, with interference in management.



BRINK:What advice would you give to someone who is new to being on a board?


Do not believe anyone who tells you that “this board membership involves just four meetings a year and an away day.” It is usually not true and not worth doing if that is all you need to do. Serve on at least one board sub-committee; that is where you really see the organization at work. Get to know the senior executives outside the board meetings. Above all: You may have been recruited for some particular skill, accountancy, human relations, media. The true skills that you should bring to the board are your values, your common sense, your humanity. Serving on a board involves the whole person, not just one side of you. Take time to socialize too — boards that socialize together also work better.

Handling Factions

BRINK:Boards can often experience factionalism, with one side pitted against another. Why is that, and how do you overcome it?

A board does not exist principally to tick boxes — real board business starts when all the fiduciary obligations are observed and met.

托斯:我从来没有经历过的派系主义,就像我在那样的任何董事会那样。当然,成员之间的方法和前景差异。例如,英国国家歌剧的董事会据说由“诉讼”组成 - 这是银行家和商人 - 和“Luvies” - 艺术家等等。


If a board were to descend into factionalism, it would be the chair’s absolute responsibility to identify the causes and to debate and discuss them to the point of reconciliation. Changes of membership might be needed. To be clear: A divided, faction-ridden board represents an existential threat to the successful working of any organization. It must not be allowed to persist.

A Good Board Needs Both Skills and Personality

BRINK:What are the characteristics boards should look for in searching for new members?

托斯塔:一家主要的国际舞蹈公司Akram Khan公司的高级行政告诉我:“我们在寻找我们的舞者时花在我们的受托人身上寻找我们的受托人。”他的方法是对的。不要急于这个过程。

Consider the basic questions: Does your board need re-balancing in the interests of gender or ethnic diversity? This matters. Canvass existing board members for suggested newcomers. Beware of recruiting someone just because an existing board member knows them from another board. This becomes too cozy.


BRINK:Have the fiduciary requirements of being a board member changed?

TUSA: They get more detailed, more onerous as time goes by. They must be followed and observed. Any effective board allots special responsibility for fiduciary responsibilities to a handful of key board sub-committees. Main board business should not be dominated or defined by noting and recording fiduciary observance.

A board does not exist principally to tick boxes. If that was all a board did then it would not be doing its job. Real board business starts when all the fiduciary obligations are observed and met. Hard board business is not and cannot be defined in advance or achieved merely by observing rules and meeting obligations.


TUSA: I very much doubt that boards have any moral obligation of the sort. If they feel such an obligation personally, they should pay from their own pockets. However, if executives decide that a company or organization might benefit reputationally from an actively involved social role, the board would be asked to endorse it just like any other business-led decision.


John Tusa爵士

Author of On Board: The Insider’s Guide to Surviving Life in the Boardroom

John Tusa爵士is a British arts administrator, author ofOn Board: The Insider’s Guide to Surviving Life in the Boardroom, journalist and former presenter of BBC’s Newsnight. He is the co-chairman of the European Union Youth Orchestra and was formerly the managing director of the BBC World Service and the Barbican Arts Centre.

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